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By Lance Jennings

HANFORD, CA - OCTOBER 15, 2012... Last Saturday night, Hollister's Ryan Bernal closed out the 2012 USAC West Coast Sprint Car season with a dominating performance at Kings Speedway. Bernal won the $1,500 "Cotton Classic" main event, scored his third Sander Engineering / Rod End Supply Fast Time Award, and claimed his fifth heat race of the year. Richard Vander Weerd, Andy Forsberg, Don Gansen, and Rookie of the Year Austin Liggett rounded out the top five.

With an six pill drawn for the main event inversion, Verdemont Heights' Don Gansen and Austin Liggett of Tracy shared the front row. With the green flag waving, twenty-two cars picked up the throttle and roared towards the first turn. Unfortunately, close racing and contact resulted in flips by Shane Golobic and Tyler Dolacki. As both machines were unable to continue, both drivers walked away uninjured as a lengthy delay was needed to repair the front straightaway fence.

Back to a complete restart, Liggett got the better of Gansen to lead his first main event lap with the series. Vander Weerd, who won Santa Maria's Billet Cup from seventeenth, was on the move and took control on the next circuit. Setting a fast pace on the Hanford clay oval, the leader would reach slower traffic on lap eight as Bernal, Liggett, Forsberg, and Gansen were in pursuit.

As Vander Weerd continued to slice through the traffic, Bernal was fighting his way forward and kept the leader in sight. By lap nineteen, Vander reached a cluster of racers battling side by side. Ryan saw his opportunity and entered the fray. With one driver choosing the high side and another diving low into the traffic, Bernal claimed the lead on lap twenty-one.

Once out front, Bernal had earned a small advantage and made his way past the traffic. Vander Weerd was on the hunt and charged after the leader. Now, the tables looked to be turned on Bernal with another thick pack of cars just ahead as Vander Weerd closed in and applied heavy pressure. Both drivers made their way through the traffic and Bernal maintained the top spot. Richard took another shot that fell short and Ryan Bernal won the green to checkered Cotton Classic in front of a large crowd.

Piloting Keith Ford's #73 King Racing Products / A&A Precision Machine Spike, Ryan Bernal scored his fourth win of the season. Currently second on the all-time list with nine victories, last year's Rookie of the Year closed out the campaign second in points with two Competition Suspension Inc. / Diversified Machine Inc. Semi-Main wins, two Ringers Gloves / Kaeding Performance Hard Charger Awards, ten top-5 finishes, and 91 feature laps led.

After scoring second, Richard Vander Weerd of Visalia had another solid night behind the wheel of the family owned #10 Vander Weerd Construction / Battery Worx Maxim. Qualifying second overall and placing second in his heat race, last year's champion placed fifth in the point chase. With two feature wins, Vander Weerd also had one Sander Engineering / Rod End Supply Fast Time Award, three heat race victories, one Ringers Gloves / Kaeding Performance Hard Charger Award, six top-5 finishes, and 72 feature laps led on the year.

Auburn's Andy Forsberg earned the night's LRB Inc. Race Products Award with a third place run in the Cotton Classic. Piloting his #92 Autism Awareness / Pitstop USA Triple X entry, the multi-time California Civil War Champion was third quick in time trials and placed fourth in his heat race. In limited appearances with the series, Forsberg was thirtieth in points.
After falling back in the feature, Don Gansen rallied to score fourth at the checkered flags. Driving the Gansen Engineering #7G Maxim backed by Trench Shoring, the former California Lightning Sprint Champion timed in sixth fast and ran fifth in his heat race. Gansen placed fifteenth in the standings with one heat race victory and three top-10 finishes in the campaign.

By virtue of his fifth place finish, Austin Liggett secured Rookie of the Year honors in 2012. Piloting the family owned #83 Excel Environmental Services / Home Connections Inc. Maxim, the Wingless Spec Sprint graduate qualified fifth overall and placed fifth in his heat race. Claiming eleventh in points, Liggett had one heat race victory, one Competition Suspension Inc. / Diversified Machine Inc. Semi-Main win, three top-5 finishes, and 1 feature lap led.

Dennis Howell of Rancho Palos Verdes made his first start of the year and won the Saldana Racing Products / Keizer Wheels Heat Race #2. Driving the family owned #62 San Pedro Auto Body / Howell Meyer Racing Maxim, the USAC Western Midget graduate qualified fourteenth and finished ninth in the main event. For his efforts at the Cotton Classic, Howell claimed forty-second in championship points.

Hanford's Justyne Hamblin announced her retirement from racing and won the DJ Safety Heat Race #3. Piloting the JH Motorsports #8 Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino / Dias Law Firm Speed Tech, the 2009 Champion was fifth quick in time trials and scored twelfth in the main event. Closing out the season tenth in points, Hamblin had two heat race victories, one Competition Suspension Inc. / Diversified Machine Inc. Semi-Main win, three top-10 finishes, and 1 feature lap led.

"The Rickster" Ricky Kirkbride of Bakersfield drove Bob and Toni Van Meter's #87 Fred Cummings Motorsports Maxim to victory in the 10-lap Competition Suspension Inc. / Diversified Machine Inc. Semi-Main. Qualifying eleventh on the night, the USAC Ford Focus Midget graduate ran sixth in his heat race and placed eighth in the feature. Claiming sixth in points, "The Rickster" had one heat race victory, seven top-10 finishes, and 9 feature laps led in 2012.

Verdemont Heights' Chris Gansen earned the night's Ringers Gloves / Kaeding Performance "Hard Charger / Best Passing Job" honors with a thirteenth place run after starting twenty-first. Driving the Gansen Engineering #4G Trench Shoring Maxim, the Rookie of the Year candidate was nineteenth quick, seventh in his heat race, and sixth in the semi-main. Gansen placed twelfth overall in points with three top-10 finishes to his credit.

After scoring tenth in the Cotton Classic, San Diego's Chris Ennis earned the program's Weld Racing Award. Piloting his #86 B&B Transmission / Skarpohl & Associates 777 entry, the 2010 Rookie of the Year timed in twelfth fast, eighth in his heat race, and second in the semi-main. In limited starts, Ennis was fourteenth in points with three top-10 finishes on the season.

Hanford's Cotton Classic is available on DVD for purchase from Mike Truex's Loudpedal Productions. In addition, the company has other videos featuring the USAC West Coast Sprint Car Series that can be ordered by calling (805) 407-7229 or visiting www.loudpedalvideo.com. 

The USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series would like to thank Southwest Contractors, Hoosier Tire, Amsoil, ButlerBuilt, Competition Suspension Inc., Cory Kruseman's Sprint Car & Midget Driving School, Crow Enterprizes, DJ Safety, Diversified Machine Inc., Extreme Mufflers, Hilborn Fuel Injection, Hinchman-Indy Racing Uniforms, Integra Shocks, Kaeding Performance, Keizer Wheels, LRB Inc. Race Products, ParkerStore of Phoenix, Ringers Gloves, Rod End Supply, SBI Fuel Systems, Saferacer.com, Saldana Racing Products, Sander Engineering, and Weld Racing for their support. 

For more information on the USAC West Coast Sprint Car Series, visit westcoastsprintcars.com, www.usacracing.com, www.racesantamariaspeedway.com, or follow the series on Facebook (www.facebook.com/#!/pages/USAC-West-Coast-Sprint-Car-Series/369549755817)
October 13, 2012 – Hanford, California – Kings Speedway – “Cotton Classic”

1. Ryan Bernal, 73, Ford-15.528; 2. Richard Vander Weerd, 10, Vander Weerd-15.810; 3. Andy Forsberg, 92, Forsberg-15.939; 4. Shane Golobic, 29, Bowman-16.064; 5. Austin Liggett, 83, Liggett-16.155; 6. Don Gansen, 7G, Gansen-16.195; 7. Peter Murphy, 11, Iturriria-16.196; 8. Jace Vander Weerd, 88, Vander Weerd-16.212; 9. Rusty Carlile, 51, Carlile-16.264; 10. Tyler Dolacki, 18X, Dolacki-16.337; 11. Ricky Kirkbride, 87, Van Meter-16.384; 12. Chris Ennis, 87, Ennis-16.410; 13. Jesse Denome, 6, Denome-16.479; 14. Dennis Howell, 62, Howell-16.554; 15. Justyne Hamblin, 8, JH-16.582; 16. Matt Day, 97, Day-16.603; 17. Danny Faria Jr., 17V, Faria-16.642; 18. Shawn Kautz, 27, Kautz-16.949; 19. Chris Gansen, 4G, Gansen-16.965; 20. Jeff Sibley, 18, Watt-16.968; 21. Kevin Barnes, 36B, Barnes-17.273; 22. Kolby Araki, 30K, Araki-17.353; 23. Terry Nichols, 33, Nichols-17.638; 24. Ray Knight, 6K, Knight-18.600.

1. Ryan Bernal, 2. Matt Day, 3. Tyler Dolacki, 4. Peter Murphy, 5. Shane Golobic, 6. Jesse Denome, 7. Chris Gansen, 8. Kolby Araki. NT

1. Dennis Howell, 2. Richard Vander Weerd, 3. Danny Faria Jr., 4. Jace Vander Weerd, 5. Austin Liggett, 6. Ricky Kirkbride, 7. Jeff Sibley, 8. Terry Nichols. NT

DJ SAFETY HEAT RACE 3: (10 laps) 
1. Justyne Hamblin, 2. Rusty Carlile, 3. Shawn Kautz, 4. Andy Forsberg, 5. Don Gansen, 6. Kevin Barnes, 7. Ray Knight, 8. Chris Ennis. NT

1. Ricky Kirkbride, 2. Chris Ennis, 3. Jesse Denome, 4. Kevin Barnes, 5. Kolby Araki, 6. Chris Gansen, 7. Jeff Sibley, 8. Terry Nichols, 9. Ray Knight. NT

FEATURE: (30 laps - With Starting Positions) 
1. Ryan Bernal (6th), 2. Richard Vander Weerd (5th), 3. Andy Forsberg (4th), 4. Don Gansen (1st), 5. Austin Liggett (2nd), 6. Jace Vander Weerd (8th), 7. Peter Murphy (7th), 8. Ricky Kirkbride (11th), 9. Dennis Howell (13th), 10. Chris Ennis (12th), 11. Rusty Carlile (9th), 12. Justyne Hamblin (14th), 13. Chris Gansen (21st), 14. Kevin Barnes (19th), 15. Jesse Denome (18th), 16. Jeff Sibley (22nd), 17. Matt Day (15th), 18. Shawn Kautz (17th), 19. Kolby Araki (20th), 20. Danny Faria Jr. (16th), 21. Shane Golobic (3rd), 22. Tyler Dolacki (10th). NT
**Tyler Dolacki and Shane Golobic flipped during the feature.

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Lap 1 Austin Liggett, Laps 2-20 Richard Vander Weerd, Laps 21-30 Ryan Bernal.

1. Bud Kaeding 615; 2. Ryan Bernal 563; 3. Markus Niemela 484; 4. Danny Faria Jr. 483; 5. Richard Vander Weerd 460; 6. Ricky Kirkbride 401; 7. Danny Sheridan 398; 8. Matt Mitchell 391; 9. Rusty Carlile 389; 10. Justyne Hamblin 354; 11. Austin Liggett 353; 12. Chris Gansen 306; 13. Kevin Barnes 287; 14. Chris Ennis 238; 15. Don Gansen 238; 16. Jace Vander Weerd 226; 17. Tyler Dolacki 184; 18. Steve Conrad 181; 19. Jared Little 158; 20. Matt Day 156.